Education and Employment of Disconnected Low-Income Men. Low Educational Attainment Disadvantages Low-Income Men


We present data on the educational attainment of low-income men and compare them with men who live in families with incomes above 200 percent of FPL (or “higher-income men”). While this brief primarily focuses on men without postsecondary degrees, we begin by examining the spectrum of educational disparities for men across the income distribution.

Low-income men have lower levels of education than higher-income men. Nationally, low-income men are almost three times as likely as higher-income men to lack a high school degree or equivalent education (29 percent versus 10 percent; see figure 1).2 Low-income men are also somewhat more likely than higher-income men to have a high school degree or GED as their highest level of educational attainment (33 percent versus 27 percent). Similar proportions of lower-income and higher-income men have some college education, but not an associate’s degree (24 percent versus 25 percent). Low-income men are half as likely as higher-income men, however, to have an associate’s degree (4 percent versus 8 percent) and three times less likely to have a four-year college degree or more education (10 percent versus 30 percent).

Among low-income men, Hispanics have lower high school completion rates than African Americans and whites.3 Fifty percent of Hispanics age 18 to 44 lack a high school degree or GED, compared with 26 percent of African Americans and 17 percent of whites in the same age group. Low-income Hispanic men are also half as likely as low-income white men to have any postsecondary education (21 percent versus 48 percent). Low-income African American men fall in the middle (35 percent).

The rest of the brief focuses on the target population—low-income men with less than a four-year college degree—to highlight disparities across race and place. Looking at the target population of low-income men without a college degree, 32 percent do not have a high school degree or GED.

Metropolitan areas with high concentrations of Hispanics have low high school completion rates. In 18 of 52 metropolitan areas examined, more than a third of low-income men (34 percent or more) do not have a highschool degree or GED. Most of these metropolitan areas have a majority low-income Hispanic male population. The Bakersfield metropolitan area in California, where 71 percent of low-income men are Hispanic, has the highest share of low-income men without a high school degree or GED (46 percent).4

Similarly, the high school dropout rates are above the national average (32 percent) in several other metropolitan areas where Hispanics are a majority of low-income men: Houston (45 percent), McAllen and Fresno (44 percent each), Los Angeles and Dallas (43 percent each), and Riverside (42 percent) metropolitan areas. In comparison, metropolitan areas with a large percentage (33 percent or higher) of African American low-income men have lower high school dropout rates, ranging from 24 percent in the Virginia Beach metropolitan area to 36 percent in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Another indication of educational disparities is the share of low-income men who are limited English proficient, or LEP. Nationally, 21 percent of low-income men with less than a four-year college degree are LEP, meaning they speak a language other than English at home and speak English less than very well.5 Fourteen percent of low-income men are bilingual, meaning they speak another language at home and speak English very well. Over four in every ten low-income men in cities with large Hispanic populations cannot speak English very well. The LEP share of low-income men is close to half in the Los Angeles and San Jose metropolitan areas (48 percent each) and 40 percent or higher in six other metropolitan areas with sizable pop-ulations of Hispanic low-income men, including Houston (43 percent), San Francisco (41 percent), and Bakersfield (41 percent).


Figure 1. Educational Distribution of US Men Age 18–44, 2008–10

figure 1

Source: ASPE tabulations of the American Community Survey (2008–10).
Notes: Low-income men live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and lack four-year college degrees. Higher-income men live in families with incomes above 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

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